AMERICA’S BEST

The German people can be forgiven for electing Hitler in 1933. They didn’t know. Perhaps even he didn’t know. After all, events have a way of overtaking themselves. But we’re told they’d have ratified that choice as late as April, 1945. And for that they cannot be forgiven.

Likewise, then, given the polyester pant-suit alternative, Trump seemed like a decent enough bet in 2016. But if he’s re-elected in November, history’s judgment on the American people may not be so kind.

The Thousand Year Reich lasted twelve. The first six seemed promising enough. The last six not so much. Trump’s Reich went south in its fourth year. Will Covid 19 prove his Stalingrad? Is James Mattis his von Stauffenberg?

There are forces at play in America that are beyond comprehension for anyone not an American. Europeans, Canadians, Australians, Kiwis – we’re all just baffled. Why is the U.S. the only first-world country that doesn’t have single-payer health care? Why does it still perform executions? Why does it hold on to its POWs seventeen years after declaring victory in the war in which they were captured? Why is female reproductive autonomy still an issue? Why is the average American so poorly educated? Why is a man-child its President?

Some talking heads think – by which they mean they hope – America is in the process of implosion. China is taking over. India is in the bullpen. That kind of prognostication is beyond my pay grade. I take less interest in empires than I do in people. And there are people south of the 49th who are less than sanguine about what’s happening there.

When I was an undergrad in the late Sixties at the University of Regina, we ran a shuttle bus down to the border to pick up the draft dodgers. The University of Lethbridge, where I teach now, is 70 miles from the border. I suspect we’ll be doing something similar if things go badly in November.

According to Trump, “They’re not sending their best. They’re rapists, they’re murderers …” By contrast, the refugees the draft drove north were America’s best. Not a rapist or murderer among them. In fact they came here because they wanted not to be murderers. If things go badly in November, we’ll be welcoming their best again. I can live with that. But I’m not sure those left behind can.

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